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A roundup of elder law news and practice development articles culled from news sources across the nation during the week of November 28 to December 4, 2023.READ MORE
A roundup of elder law news and practice development articles culled from news sources across the nation during the week of November 21 to November 27, 2023.READ MORE
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FROM THE KNOWLEDGE BANK
A power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents, but when one sibling is named in a power of attorney, there is the potential for disputes with other siblings. No matter which side you are on, it is important to know your rights and limitations.
Note that each state will have specific rules for the format, content, and provisions of POAs. For example, in some states, you may be able to name one person as your agent, or more than one person. Your agent(s) will have the power to handle affairs for you, including carrying out bank transactions, signing agreements on your behalf, or dealing with your creditors.
There are also rules regarding your agent’s legal responsibilities. For instance, they must act in your best interest. They are required to share any relevant documents with a co-agent or successor agent. And they must avoid any conflicts of interest, among other duties.
There are two types of powers of attorney: financial and medical.
Financial POAs usually include the right to open bank accounts, withdraw funds, trade stock, pay bills, and cash checks. The financial power of attorney could also include the right to give gifts.
Medical POAs allow the agent to make health care decisions. In all these tasks, the agent is required to act in your best interests. The POA document explains the specific duties of the agent.
When a parent names only one child to be the agent under a power of attorney, it can cause bad feelings and distrust. If you are dealing with a sibling who has been named agent under a POA or if you have been named agent over your siblings, the following are some things to keep in mind:
If you are drafting a POA document and want to avoid the potential for conflicts, there are some options. You can name co-agents in the document. You need to be careful how this is worded, or it could cause more problems. The best way to name two co-agents is to let the agents act separately.
Another option is to steer clear of family members and name a professional fiduciary.
Sibling disputes over how to provide care or where a parent will live can escalate into a guardianship battle that can cost the family thousands of dollars. Drafting a formal sibling agreement (a family care agreement) is a way to give guidance to the agent under the power of attorney and provide for consequences if the agreement isn’t followed.
Even if you don’t draft a formal agreement, openly talking about the areas of potential disagreement can help. If necessary, a mediator can help families come to an agreement on care.
To determine the best way for your family to provide care, consult with an estate planning or elder law attorney. Find a qualified attorney near you.